The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual. This book considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. It argues that the contemporary sociological preoccupation with structure and agency has had disastrous effects on the understanding of Karl Marx's ideas. Through a critical evaluation of 'structuration theory' as a purported synthesis of 'structure and agency', the book also argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. Michel Foucault's ideas were used to both shore up existing positions in sociology and to instantiate (or solve) the 'new' structure-agency 'problem'. Foucault allowed sociologists to conduct 'business as usual' between the demise of structuralism and the contemporary consensus around Pierre Bourdieu-Anthony Giddens-Jurgen Habermas and the structure-agency dualisms. Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory.
Jürgen Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporarysocialtheory. This status is deserved: he has produced an impressive opus which has addressed critical contemporary social and political issues. Habermas has also been a consistently brilliant exegete, lucidly describing a wide range of philosophical and sociological literature. In the specific field of social theory and, in particular, in the debates about ontology, Habermas has also made a decisive contribution, demonstrating the undeniable importance of meaning
social groups and institutions. Even in the largest institutions, face-to-face interaction and the power of mutual obligation underpin human existence, not obedience to a transcendental authority by independent agents.
For Tolkien, the Ring involves a social order of individuals who pursue their own interests constrained and directed only by means of a higher force, a Leviathan. He calls this higher force the Ring, but his solution as to how evil individuals are unified reflects in mythical form the solution at which some
for the discipline today: the understanding of what Shils called ‘the
constitution of society’ (Shils, 1982a), Shils’ way of thinking needs to be
understood by placing it outside the boundaries of sociological consciousness. In my opinion, Shils tried to solve a larger problem by analysing the
genesis and dynamics of (conflicting) values in the process of human
action. Eventually, I will conclude by reinterpreting Shils through placing
his line of thought in the context of contemporarysocialtheory and moral
philosophy. My aim will be to portray Shils as a thinker
specific settings, I find that there is a need to challenge some of
the key distinctions assumed within contemporarysocialtheories. Within a theoretical context shaped by the dualistic traditions of Enlightenment modernity, it is
common for sociologists to situate their empirical work within theoretical frameworks that are focused either on the discursive construction and representation of
reality or on material and embodied phenomena and experiences that are not conceptualised or represented by research subjects (Seidler 2013). Underlying these
. This observation suggests that we should suspend the simple affirmation of the practical over the theoretical, in order to be better placed to notice what is most distinctive about a broadly small-P pragmatist inflection identifiable in contemporarysocialtheory (see Joas and Knöbl, 2009 ). And perhaps the best way of appreciating what is distinctive about this small-P pragmatism is to examine some of the family resemblances between Pragmatism with a big-P and other streams of modern social thought.
For example, one might note the evident affinity between Dewey
’ is not just a normative idea or a descriptor of the behaviour of virtuous individuals, but that there is actually an entity called ‘virtue’ out there which virtuous people ‘have’, as it were: the virtuous individual ‘has’, or partakes in, virtue. In the case of ‘femininity’, a ‘conceptualist’ thinker would assert that there is something out there called ‘femininity’, and presumably that women ‘have’ that thing – a bit like a poppy seed ‘has’, or contains, opium. In contemporarysocialtheory, we would use the word ‘essentialism’ rather than ‘conceptualism’, with
’s Studies International Forum 6 (1983), pp. 573–81; N. Fraser, Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in ContemporarySocialTheory (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).
22 The education system can also serve as a tool of marginalization and powerlessness by paying little attention to the specific learning cultures and needs of those doing the learning, impeding their educational progress. It can connect with systems of violence and interact with other reliance systems in what is discussed in the United States as the ‘schools to
becoming a particular kind of a person. Along with tracing how and when these sets of questions and ideas worked as a disciplinary
discourse, I also felt compelled to recognise what these words meant for my
informants and how the seminars functioned as both disciplinary spaces as well
as spaces for ethical self-formation. In this Epilogue, I wish to reflect on what
lessons can be drawn from this ethnographic analysis for critical social theory.
What space is there in contemporarysocialtheory to talk about freedom, will
Politics of waiting